Nicotine Spray May Help Fight Cigarette Habit

The recent ban on smoking during domestic airline flights of six hours or less can make life tough for the estimated 50 million American adults--about 27% of the adult population--who haven't yet kicked the cigarette habit. But a nasal nicotine spray--an aid now being tested locally--may help.

The unnamed spray works faster than nicotine patches or gum, said Nina Schneider, chief of the nicotine dependence research unit at the Veterans Administration Medical Center, Brentwood. She is directing what is believed to be the nation's only study of the spray.

"Nicotine from cigarettes goes to the brain in seven seconds and the bloodstream in about two minutes," she said. Nicotine gum takes about 30 minutes to work; the patch, under investigation, can take seven hours to kick in. The spray works in less than 15 minutes, Schneider said.

"Smokers (who use nicotine replacement) aren't trading one dependency for another," said Schneider, an associate research psychologist at the UCLA School of Medicine. "They are weaning."

She tells smokers to aim for a three- to six-month weaning period and to use up to 32 two-squirt "hits" of nicotine spray daily.

In the process, she said, smokers are reducing disease risks: "Nicotine replacement therapies are designed to eliminate all the cancer-causing agents and the gases in smoke. You're eliminating risks contributing to lung disease."

The spray, which is from a Swedish manufacturer (Pharmacia LEO) and is also under study abroad, will become another valuable weapon in the arsenal of stop-smoking aids, predicted another researcher. "I think it will be particularly useful for the highly nicotine-dependent," said Dr. David P.L. Sachs , director of the Smoking Cessation Research Institute, a nonprofit Palo Alto center. "Those smokers need to get a jolt of nicotine from their cigarette. The spray won't give them the same jolt as a cigarette, but it will give more than the patch or gum."

Smokers wishing to participate in the UCLA study must be between 25 and 55 years old and meet other requirements. Information: (213) 824-6671.

POINT COUNTERPOINT Knee Braces: Are They Helpful or Harmful?

For years, professional athletes and recreational fitness buffs have debated the question.

Will wearing knee braces reduce the severity and frequency of injuries?

Medical literature is full of conflicting studies. Here's information from two of them--with different conclusions--and the authors' advice on their implications for amateur athletes.

Michael Sitler, assistant professor of physical education, Temple University, Philadelphia:

"We studied 1,400 subjects for two years to determine if we could reduce the severity and incidence of knee injuries in football through knee braces. We saw reductions in knee injuries as a result of bracing.

"For recreational athletes, the potential is there for knee bracing to reduce injury. But not every brace works for every sport and every problem. See a doctor before you put on a knee brace. Our study provides one more slice of the pie, but knee braces need more study."

Richard Kronmal, professor of biostatistics, University of Washington School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Seattle.:

"We looked at college football players from 71 schools, some braced, some not, to see whether braced players had lower injury rates.

In general, braced players overall had more injuries than non-braced. The severity of injuries (between the two groups) was not different.

"Our study has few implications for recreational athletes. Football players weigh more and are in better condition than most non-professional athletes."

SHOP TALK Actibath: Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz

Think of it as an Alka-Seltzer for an upset, up-tight body. Actibath, billed as the first carbonated bath tablet, fizzes for five minutes after it's dropped into a tub of warm water. As it fizzes, it releases carbonated gases into the water, said Ryo Kobayashi spokesman for Andrew Jergens Co., Actibath's manufacturer. "That gas stays in the water and stimulates blood circulation," he said. "As a result, you feel more relaxed." A package of five sells for about $3.50 in grocery and drug stores. It's now available only in Western states, but Jergens by the fall hopes to market the tablets nationally.

Save your money, suggested Rick Ricafrente, a physical therapist with the Pain Control Center of Beverly Hills. "Plain warm water can increase circulation and relax you too," he said.

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